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Governor Orders National Guard to Join Fire Fight

July 1, 2008

By Niesha Lofing, The Sacramento Bee, Calif.

Jul. 1–Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger today ordered the California National Guard to help fight the wildfires scorching Northern California.

The National Guard is mobilizing at least 200 of its members from Northern and Southern California to help the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection as it fights hundreds of fires covering thousands of acres, the governor’s office announced this morning.

Though fires are burning throughout California, National Guard efforts will focus on north state blazes.

“I can’t say enough about the brave men and women working tirelessly, and with little rest, to battle the blazes across California,” Schwarzenegger stated in a news release. “I am announcing a big shot in the arm to their efforts by ordering California National Guard soldiers to provide direct ground support on the fires.”

The National Guard will provide hand crews, truck transportation support and command and control staff in coordination with Cal Fire and the state Office of Emergency Services. The Guard also will deploy eight bulldozers to assist in cutting fire lines, the release states.

The resources are in being added to complement the helicopters and other aviation support the Guard already has deployed as part of interagency firefighting efforts.

The amount of acreage scorched by wildfire continues to climb, while the number of personnel and resources dedicated to the firefight shifts slightly.

Also, the total number of fires has dropped, a result of the approach taken to battle the numerous blazes.

According to the U.S. Forest Service, the number of fires in the state was about 600, down from more than twice that number.

Firefighters are using their resources carefully, attacking small fires first, focusing on communities in the path of flames and allowing other blazes to chew through unpopulated forest land.

“It’s like eating an elephant — you’ve got to eat it one bite at a time,” said Jason Kirchner, a Forest Service spokesman. “We have to take a step back, figure out where the best place is to make a stand and sometimes wait for the fire to come to us in those situations.”

The Basin Complex, two fires burning five miles south of Big Sur in Monterey County, has burned 39,906 acres and is 3 percent contained, according to online U.S. Forest Service fire information.

Seven homes have been destroyed in the fire, which continues to threaten 1,227 homes. The fire also has resulted in two injuries and has closed a portion of Highway 1.

The Lime Complex, 70 fires burning in Trinity County, has burned 35,445 acres and is 36 percent contained, according to the Forest Service.

The fire is threatening 1,530 homes in the communities of Platina, Wildwood and Hyampom.

The Butte Lightning Complex has burned 17,000 acres throughout Butte County and is 30 percent contained, according to online fire information updated at 8 a.m. today by the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

The fire continues to threaten 1,200 homes and outbuildings, has destroyed two structures, caused five injuries and forced evacuations of a Boy Scout camp in Butte Meadows. Precautionary evacuation advisories also are in effect for several communities, including Concow, Jonesville and Butte Meadows.

The fires caused numerous road closures throughout the county. Highway 32 is closed from Butte Meadows, near Humboldt Road, to Highway 36 in Tehama County according to the California Highway Patrol.

One major thoroughfare has been reopened. Highway 70 was opened at 12:40 a.m. today with one-way traffic controls and escorts in effect, the CHP says.

The Corral Fire in Lassen County has burned 15,000 acres, but containment grew to 10 percent this morning.

California has seen 1,459 fires throughout the state since June 20. The number of acres burned rose to 416,272 as of 9 p.m. Monday, with the number of personnel committed listed at 19,134, down from 19,240.

Resources committed include 1,496 fire engines, 571 fire crews, 359 dozers, 400 water tenders and 100 helicopters, according to online Cal Fire statistics.

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Copyright (c) 2008, The Sacramento Bee, Calif.

Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.

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